M. Antonii amicitiam semper dubiam

By john abshire, in 'Latin Beginners', Mar 20, 2019.

  1. john abshire Member

    M. Antonii amicitiam semper dubiam et incertam tandem abrupit, nec multo post navali proelio eum apud actiam vicit.

    book="He then finally broke off his friendship with Marcus Antonius, which had always been doubtful and uncertain, and soon afterwards he defeated him in a sea-battle off Actiam."

    me="At last he broke off his always doubtful and uncertain friendship of Marcus Antonius and afterwards he defeated him in many a naval battle near Actiam."

    I had to read the answer to translate this correctly, but it seems the book answer is a stretch. That is there is no relative pronoun (which) for the phrase "which had always been doubtful and uncertain".
    [it seems obvious that 'which' (and the adjective phrase) was inserted to make the sentence easier to read, but I get so many of these wrong inserting words where they don't belong. Being without a teacher i need guidance here.]

    Multo is omitted from the translation. Does multo describe proelio? Should multo navali proelio be translated "many a naval battle"?

    I suppose sea-battle and naval battle (navali proelio) are the same thing but not what is said.
    and, i suppose apud actiam means "off actiam" as well as "near/at actiam", and permissible as long as you get the meaning?

    also the book translates tandem as "then finally", vs "at last".
    again the same meaning, but i am asking if my translation is good enough, better, or does it matter?
    Last edited by john abshire, Mar 20, 2019
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
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    Nec multo post = "and not long afterwards" (or, even more literally, "and afterwards not by much"). The answer key renders this idea with "soon afterwards". "Soon afterwards" means basically the same thing as "not long afterwards"; it's just expressing the same idea from the opposite point of view (positive rather than negative).

    You are right that there isn't, literally, a relative clause in the Latin. The translator added it because that was the way he found to make it sound better in English.

    "Off Actium" means "near Actium" at sea. Apud Actium, by itself, means "near Actium" whether at sea or on land. In this sentence, however, we know that it's at sea, so it's OK to translate apud Actium to "off Actium" in this particular context, because "off Actium" is idiomatic in English, and Latin doesn't make a difference (it has no specific word for "off").

    Note it's Actium, not Actiam.

    Sea-battle and naval battle are the same thing, as you say, so it's perfectly fine to translate navali proelio to "in a sea-battle". If you were to back-translate "in a sea-battle" into Latin, it wouldn't translate to anything different than navali proelio. The constructions are different: in English you have two nouns put together while in Latin you have a noun and an adjective; yet they mean the same thing, and Latin wouldn't allow the same construction as the English.

    The author of the answer key was obviously going for translations that sounded good to him in English, rather than for word-for-word ones.

    It's perfectly OK not to translate word for word, as long as you "get the meaning", as you say. It's even sometimes preferable, if your aim is to produce a translation that reads well (that's good English or good [insert any other language]).

    Word-for-word translations, however, can be very useful to explain the grammatical constructions of the originals to students.
    Last edited by Pacifica, Mar 21, 2019
  3. john abshire Member

    thank you.
    word for word would be more useful to me. I suspect the author is throwing challenges at me (students at the end of the 3rd book of 3), and doesn't understand i am challenged plenty by word for word translations.)
    I struggle with translating, and am finding that Latin sentences rarely translate into well written English, particularly the longer sentences.

    On the other hand, there seems to be some latitude with Latin, i.e. it doesn't have to be written well (in Latin). A Latin sentence that is long, and equally hard to read, is ok.
  4. Dantius Homo Sapiens

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    Perhaps it's only hard to read from our perspective, since we are used to shorter sentences, and it is very well-constructed and well-written from the Roman perspective. Latin works differently than English.
  5. john abshire Member

    I see now the place for multo = "afterwards not by much"; Nec multo post
    thank you


    book translation="He then finally broke off his friendship with Marcus Antonius, which had always been doubtful and uncertain, and soon afterwards he defeated him in a sea-battle off Actiam."

    my (Latin) translation (of the book answer);
    M. Antonii amicitiam, quae dubiam et incertam semper fuit,
    tandem abrupit, et eum in navali proelio apud actiam mox post vicit.

    The red clause is my translation of the author's relative clause
    et and mox were added, (nec was omitted).
    Is my translation correct?
    if so, is it "better" Latin to write it this way, vs the original sentence?
    or/ was Latin written in long, confusing sentences, as a matter of style?
    [The way English was written in the mid 1800's]

    the original sentence, for convenience;
    M. Antonii amicitiam dubiam et incertam semper
    tandem abrupit, nec multo post navali proelio eum apud actiam vicit.

  6. john abshire Member

    perhaps.
    Were there authors who had the writing style of shorter sentences, i.e. easy to read from our perspective?
  7. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Your back-translation is incorrect.

    The biggest mistakes are: 1) the wrong case in dubiam and incertam (these should be in the nominative) and 2) the wrong tense in fuit ("had been" is pluperfect, fuerat).

    Subtler points are: 1) the in before navali proelio is unnecessary and 2) mox post doesn't sound very idiomatic.
    No. It's worse, for the reasons I said above.

    Now, this, using a relative clause, would have been, I think, equally good (but not better) Latin as the original sentence:

    M. Antonii amicitiam, quae semper dubia et incerta fuerat, tandem abrupit, nec multo post navali proelio eum apud Actium vicit.

    There are often several ways to formulate an idea, and there will not necessarily be one that's "better" than all others. Language isn't such an exact science.
    The average Latin sentence is longer than the average present-day English sentence.

    Long Latin sentences aren't intrinsically confusing. They're only confusing when you aren't used to them.
    I don't exactly remember the length of his sentences, but Eutropius is one of the easiest, if not the easiest, Latin author.
    Last edited by Pacifica, Mar 21, 2019
  8. john abshire Member

    book translation="He then finally broke off his friendship with Marcus Antonius, which had always been doubtful and uncertain, and soon afterwards he defeated him in a sea-battle off Actiam."

    my (Latin) translation (of the book answer);
    M. Antonii amicitiam, quae dubia et incerta semper fuerat,
    tandem abrupit, et eum in navali proelio apud actiam mox post vicit.

    I had dubiam and incertam (vs nominative) because the adjectives describe a noun (amicitiam) in the accusative. Why is this wrong?
  9. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Then you're losing the idea of "soon afterwards". Nec multo post is a good way to convey the idea, really.

    Also, as I said earlier, it's Actium, not actiam (I don't know if the typo is yours or if it was in the book).
    Amicitiam is in a different clause. It has no influence on the case of anything in the relative clause quae dubia et incerta semper fuerat. In this relative clause, dubia and incerta are predicative adjectives linked by fuerat to the nominative subject quae, and must therefore agree with it in the nominative.
  10. Dantius Homo Sapiens

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    Yep, Eutropius is super easy. The first sentence is pretty long but after that it's mostly quite short. Festus (another historian from the same time period) also has super short and easy sentences but his work is very boring.
  11. john abshire Member

    The book says the relative pronoun agrees with the antecedent in number and gender (but not case). I assume then you identify the antecedent by context, or does the relative pronoun follow the antecedent (closely) in word order?
    [assume these sentences were written in Latin.]
    the man lost his dog, who was big. vir canem, quis magnus erat, amisit
    the man, who was big, lost his dog. vir, quis magnus erat, canem amisit.
    do Latin relative clauses follow there antecedent this way?
    and can you depend on commas?
    Last edited by john abshire, Mar 21, 2019
  12. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Relative pronouns tend to follow their antecedents closely, yes. There are exceptions, but then it will usually be unambiguous because there will be only one possible antecedent.

    Quis is an interrogative, not a relative. You need qui in your sentences.

    I don't think commas have much to do with this. Anyway, commas didn't exist in Roman times, and in edited texts with added punctuation, you can find a number of approaches and there are many texts where any subordinate clause will be set off with commas, no matter whether it's defining or non-defining. For example, in English, "The man who was big lost his dog" and "The man, who was big, lost his dog" mean slightly different things because in the first sentence, the relative clause "who was big" is defining: we're talking specifically about the man who was big; whereas in the second sentence the relative clause is non-defining: we're talking about the man, and adding some information about his size in passing. I've always thought those Latin texts that use lots of commas may have been edited by Germans ( Bitmap ;) ) because in German it's normal for all subordinate clauses to be set off with commas.
  13. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    Yes ... Germans always use commas, when they set off subordinate clauses, because it makes everything a lot clearer. And then we argue about the question, as to whether we should set off infinitive constructions as well, in order to provide even more clarity.
    And, because the verb in German subordinate clauses last comes, we consider it, to be great fun, when we just before the verb a relative clause into the subordinate clause, which in and of itself does not look confusing enough already and is therefore in dire need for yet another long and annoying relative clause, which subordinate to it is, put can.

    To be fair, though, most of the critical editions I have (with just one exception) are the Oxford editions ... and the editors sound pretty English at least by their name (Powell, Kenney, Owen). They also use a lot more commata than you would normally use in English... you can still tell that the editor was English, I think, because you find a lot more semi-colons than a German would use, and you *sometimes* find defining relative clauses that are not set off with commas. However, very often even the English editors set off every single subordinate clause with commas as well, probably in order to provide some more clarity or to make it clearer to the reader what their reading is.
    Dantius and Pacifica like this.
  14. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    When I taught English in East Germany, my students had the habit of using commas for semicolons, so I told them to use more semicolons.

    The next week they put semicolons everywhere.
    Pacifica and Bitmap like this.
  15. john abshire Member

    I was thinking so, and in order for my example sentence to be a good example- the two nouns (man and dog) had to be the same number and gender.


    yes i see that now, my index card has qui, quae, quod.

    thank you for the information on commas. It is not what i wanted to hear, but is good to know.

    I have now completed all 3 books by Oultan (and one by Linney), so have been exposed to most all the grammar.
    I am now ready to start translating Latin text. I was wondering if you have any pointers?
    I have a copy of "Caesar's Gallic Wars", with Latin on one page, English on the facing page. I am planning to start in with this, but;
    I don't yet know enough words to read through without using a dictionary (a lot).
    I do know that the first thing in translating a sentence is to start with the verb. Oultan also suggests reading through the paragraph several times before picking up your pencil. The only thing else i can think of is to write the possible meanings and case over the words.
    I am most appreciative of any other pointers you can give me.
    thank you.
  16. Cinefactus Censor

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    Authors tend to re-use their vocabulary. If you stick with one at a time, you will start to recognise the vocab. Just look it up until you do.

    I disagree with Outlan. I think you cover the passage and uncover one word at a time understanding the sentence as you go. It will make you proficient much more quickly.
  17. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Of course, there's also a lot of vocabulary that's shared by many/all authors.

    Everyone, in the beginning, has to use the dictionary a lot when reading. That's normal. If you continue reading, though, it will eventually stick and one day you'll be able to read without a dictionary except for the odd unfamiliar word.
  18. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    I'm skeptical of the "verb first" approach, too. I'm not sure it's a good idea to skim the sentence until you've found the verb, then skim it again to find another element, and so on. It seems a choppy, unnatural approach.

    I agree with Cinefactus; just try to read things in their natural order, i.e. the order in which they're written. Once you've read and understood the sentence, then translate it, if translating (rather than just reading) is your aim.
  19. Dantius Homo Sapiens

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    So I tried reading Caesar with that method (constantly consulting a dictionary, etc.) but couldn't bear the slow pace and gave up. I found the Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata books (especially part II) very helpful for significantly reducing the amount I needed to use a dictionary. Because they presented the texts with glosses on the side, I rarely had to stop to look up a word, and the glosses are in Latin so it didn't break my immersion. By the end I had a much wider vocabulary which I could take advantage of when I went back to Caesar.

    And I agree about not trying to skim for the verb. Take a super long sentence like Quocirca te, Capitoline, quem propter beneficia populus Romanus Optimum, propter vim Maximum nominavit, teque, Iuno Regina, et te, custos urbis, Minerva, quae semper adiutrix consiliorum meorum, testis laborum exstitisti, precor atque quaeso, vosque qui maxime <me> repetistis atque revocastis, quorum de sedibus haec mihi est proposita contentio, patrii penates familiaresque, qui huic urbi et rei publicae praesidetis, vos obtestor, quorum ego a templis atque delubris pestiferam illam et nefariam flammam depuli, teque, Vesta mater, cuius castissimas sacerdotes ab hominum amentium furore et scelere defendi, cuiusque ignem illum sempiternum non sum passus aut sanguine civium restingui aut cum totius urbis incendio commisceri, ut, si in illo paene fato rei publicae obieci meum caput pro vestris caerimoniis atque templis perditissimorum civium furori atque ferro, et si iterum, cum ex mea contentione interitus bonorum omnium quaereretur, vos sum testatus, vobis me ac meos commendavi, meque atque meum caput ea condicione devovi ut, si et eo ipso tempore et ante in consulatu meo commodis meis omnibus, emolumentis, praemiis praetermissis cura, cogitatione, vigiliis omnibus nihil nisi de salute meorum civium laborassem, tum mihi re publica aliquando restituta liceret frui, sin autem mea consilia patriae non profuissent, ut perpetuum dolorem avulsus a meis sustinerem: hanc ego devotionem capitis mei, cum ero in meas sedis restitutus, tum denique convictam esse et commissam putabo.
    I bolded the verbs in main clauses, but if you were just skimming through trying to find verbs, you'd have a very hard time finding those verbs, and you would be much more likely to stumble upon a verb within a relative clause or other subordinate clause, which could mislead you.
  20. Dantius Homo Sapiens

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    And even with a shorter sentence, like Tum in prora stans columbam quam in manu tenebat emisit. If you just skim to find a verb, you might see tenebat and assume that's the main verb. But in fact, it's the verb in the relative clause quam in manu tenebat.

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