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De Bello Gallico: Liber Primus - Forum Book Club

By Decimvs, in 'De Bello Gallico', May 18, 2010.

  1. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    In fact they do! Bitmap did an excellent job in one of the above posts in this thread.

    While reading Caesar and Cicero my professors would occasionally give us hand-outs of the notoriously difficult sentences that were broken down and diagrammed.
  2. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Perseus Project translation for Book 1, Chapter 1:

    1. All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in our Gauls, the third. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws. The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the Marne and the Seine separate them from the Belgae. Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of [our] Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germans, who dwell beyond the Rhine , with whom they are continually waging war; for which reason the Helvetii also surpass the rest of the Gauls in valor, as they contend with the Germans in almost daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories, or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it has been said that the Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river Rhone ; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine , and stretches toward the north. The Belgae rises from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the river Rhine ; and look toward the north and the rising sun. Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun, and the north star.

    C. Julius Caesar. Caesar's Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper's New Classical Library.


    The first week of the Book Club has been entertaining indeed. It is a wonderful opportunity for students in between first and second year Latin to practice for the fall, and an opportunity for those of us who are already familiar with the text to keep in practice and have detailed discussion about the Caesar's narrative in general.

    Thank you very much to all of you who have been participating and raising such interesting questions, and making insightful comments. Some of the more detailed questions, such as why Caesar opens with this description, who is the intended audience, and what is the main argument(s) he is making with this text, will hopefully become more clear as we progress through the text, and we will be able to speculate in greater detail.

    The second chapter is a slightly shorter, and I have a feeling we will get through it a little quicker than the first. :)

    As before, I will paste it here simply so we have an idea of where to start and stop. I am pasting the text below from The Latin Library website:

    [2] Apud Helvetios longe nobilissimus fuit et ditissimus Orgetorix. Is M. Messala, [et P.] M. Pisone consulibus regni cupiditate inductus coniurationem nobilitatis fecit et civitati persuasit ut de finibus suis cum omnibus copiis exirent: perfacile esse, cum virtute omnibus praestarent, totius Galliae imperio potiri. Id hoc facilius iis persuasit, quod undique loci natura Helvetii continentur: una ex parte flumine Rheno latissimo atque altissimo, qui agrum Helvetium a Germanis dividit; altera ex parte monte Iura altissimo, qui est inter Sequanos et Helvetios; tertia lacu Lemanno et flumine Rhodano, qui provinciam nostram ab Helvetiis dividit. His rebus fiebat ut et minus late vagarentur et minus facile finitimis bellum inferre possent; qua ex parte homines bellandi cupidi magno dolore adficiebantur. Pro multitudine autem hominum et pro gloria belli atque fortitudinis angustos se fines habere arbitrabantur, qui in longitudinem milia passuum CCXL, in latitudinem CLXXX patebant.

    Happy reading! :)

    *also, for those who are self-teaching, or are just in the beginning stages of learning Latin grammar, feel free to post any questions that you have about grammar, no matter how small they are. I know that I speak for many others here when I say that we are more than happy to help, and that no question is too trivial, so feel free to ask anything.
  3. Reziac Member

    I'm still back in chapter one (now that the translation is up, I'm using it to try to re-impress some vocabulary on my brain) but I found this structure intrinsically interesting:

    Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen
    Note Latin's economy and efficiency compared to the English:
    The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani
    or more literally,
    The Gauls are separated from [in the sense of "kept away from"?] the Aquitani by the Garonne river.
  4. Reziac Member

    Actually, I'd like to slow it down and maybe do working translations sentence by sentence with some examination/explanation of word choice, structure, and grammar, as I think that would do a lot more for the beginners and self-teachers (and those of us bumbling along in the rear :? )

    Or is that something that should be its own thread in parallel with this one?
  5. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    I enjoy many of these sentences in much the same way Reziac. :)

    Caesar must have wanted to emphasize the river, he makes it the subject of the sentence instead of having the Gauls be the subject and using a passive verb; he has the river performing the action. But, I suppose if the Gauls were the subject we may have ended up in an ablative nightmare -- they would have been separated "from" the Aquitani "by/because of" a river. :)
  6. Reziac Member

  7. Reziac Member

    <re-peers closely at fragment>

    Interesting point! And as a military man I expect he'd regard the river as a defensible boundary first and foremost. Hmm... maybe "because of" is also implied. He does go on to talk about how those tribes lacking such a decisive boundary routinely whallop one another.

    BTW after fumbling through the first section in concert with the NoDictionaries thingee (which should perhaps be linked below each passage!), I've decided I really like the chosen translation (despite some tendency to turn multiple sentences into single objects), as it conveys the sense and life of the passages as the author intended, rather than merely the dusty words as extracted from a dictionary.
  8. angus New Member

    Garumna flumen is the subject as also Matrona and Sequana. Why is dividit chosen also for these ?
  9. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit.

    I am assuming that you are asking why the verb is singular if Caesar is mentioning more than one river. And, that is a fair question. Others will likely have more detailed explanations, but, from my own reading, I know that sometimes when a conjunction is used (like et) the verb is then made plural, and sometimes it is not. If there are specific rules about this I am unaware, and I usually just assume it is an arbitrary choice, and some authors prefer one way over the other. I do know that with a "collective singular" noun such as iuventus, iuventutis, f., even though the noun refers to a group of people (the youth), a singular verb is regularly used.

    Caesar chose for the reader to think of it as:

    Garumna dividit et Matrona dividit et Sequana dividit.

    Instead of:

    Et Garumna et Matrona et Sequana dividunt.

    Perhaps he thought of all three rivers having equal importance, and wants them to be thought of more as a list than just saying "these rivers, they divide"...with the plural verb it has more of an emphasis on the collective group, the singular verb gives more emphasis to each individual river I suppose.
  10. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Cygnea, Gena
    I don't see anything surprising in there. You would do the same in English ("river A divides them from x, river B from Y, river C from Z"). That's only logical (since each river performs a different action, it's just the same verb every time); no need to consult confusing rules there.
  11. Reziac Member

    I noticed that one too. After staring at it for a while, I decided he was using it as the verb for a collective noun (something like Bitmap's explanation), even tho he chose to name all the individual parts of the collective noun.

    (riverA + riverB) divides = a group (comprised of riverA and riverB) divides

    rather than

    (riverA divides) + (riverB divides) = 2rivers divide

    I've often said Latin is algebra for words; there's the proof. :D

    Or maybe Latin had some obscure (or obsolescent??) rule of collective plurals that we're not aware of.

    Or maybe we're full of it, and the truth is that Caesar messed up his grammar!
  12. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Cygnea, Gena
    that was not my explanation actually. This sentence is not about collective plurals, there are three different subjects doing three different things ... I've already mentioned you wouldn't express that any differently in English (or probably any other language in this world)
  13. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    I sort of swerved off-topic in my explanation by bringing up the collectives... :doh:
  14. Reziac Member

    They're not confusing us, are you? :D
  15. angus New Member

  16. Labienus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Re. the confusion over

    "Garumna flumen is the subject as also Matrona and Sequana. Why is dividit chosen also for these ?"

    I think Bitmap has the right of it. If I recall correctly, I believe it is called an hypozeugmatic construction.
  17. Reziac Member

    <scratches head, goes off, looks it up>


    My brain hurts. Let's extract the two most salient points:

    Zeugma (from the zeƻgma meaning "yoke") is a figure of speech describing the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or noun. A zeugma employs both Ellipsis (linguistics) the omission of words which are easily understood, and Parallelism (rhetoric) the balance of several words or phrases. The result is a series of similar phrases joined or yoked together by a common and implied noun or verb.

    The hypozeugma also called an adjunctio in Latin, is a zeugma where a verb falls at the end of a sentence and governs several parallel clauses that precede it.

    Dang, this beating a hapless sentence to death is proving right educational!
  18. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    I am sure that at times is has been annoying for my professors, but, I love to beat Latin sentences to death. I find that I learn the most that way. :)
  19. Labienus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    My only talent in life is to regurgitate unnecessarily technical words :disappointed:
  20. Reziac Member

    Fits right well with mine, which is to dredge up useless information!

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