My first Latin translation

By JarMan, in 'Latin Beginners', Aug 11, 2019.

  1. JarMan New Member

    I'm an amateur researcher studying Early Modern history. I'm particularly interested in the works of Hugo Grotius but I've found that that most of his writing have not been translated into English. I'm trying to learn how to translate Latin to give me access to more of his writings. So my first attempt is this letter he wrote to his brother in 1636. http://ckcc.huygens.knaw.nl/epistolarium/letter.html?id=groo001/2888

    I'm starting with just the first few sentences.

    Here's my attempt (don't laugh):

    Good brother,
    We are grateful Losecaat arrived. We will give him care so that he sees himself to have relatives. . .

    I'm pretty confused about "optime ipsi volentes." I'm hoping to get some help. Thanks for your help.
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  2. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    This is right as far as the content is concerned. If you want to mirror the Latin syntax a bit more, it would be "dearest brother, the arrival of Losecaat is welcome to us."


    operam dare = to make an effort, to take care of something
    ipsi can be taken as sibi here.
    velle with dative is a bit unusual, but I'd take it as "to want the best for him" here.

    So: "We will make an effort, so that he sees that he has relatives who want the best for him" ~ or a bit more freely "We will make sure he sees that he has relatives who (only) want the best for him".
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  3. Gregorius Textor Active Member

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    Welcome!

    We never laugh.

    Actually we laugh quite often, in some parts of this forum, but never at our new members. (We sometimes cry.)
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  4. Laurentius Weebus Maximus

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    It's probably just the superlative for bene velle, which can take the dative. It could be something like most loving relatives maybe.
  5. JarMan New Member

    Okay, here's the next sentence:

    First, I'm confused about the role of commas in Latin. I don't see a DO for vidi, but I wonder if I should even be looking before the last comma to find one. Would a DO ever be separated by its verb with a comma?
    Anyway, a literal (but obviously incorrect) translation might be, "Graswinckel, who you sent, though soon much work, I saw." This doesn't make any sense. I don't understand how "quanquam in multis negotiis" relates to the rest of the sentence. I want to think the intent is to say that Graswinckel has been doing a lot of work, but I'm really not sure.

    One more sentence for now:

    I know from a source referring to this letter that "indicas mea" is a book he has written (or maybe that he is in the process of writing or re-writing) which I am translating as "My Indians". At any rate, if I start with the first verb I get something like: "Who when he will write 'My Indians'" (the comma is confusing me again because it comes between the verb and the DO). But next we have an infinitive, a participle and a regular verb and I don't know how they are all supposed to fit together in the sentence. Maybe it's something along the lines of: "I had become aware of you not warning him not to have read. . ." But not to have read what? Is this referring back to "My Indians"? Or am I way off track here? Then we finish with ". . . and from the words and from the affairs." This last phrase doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of what I think the rest of the sentence is saying. I want to think the sense of the sentence is that Graswinckel was not supposed to have read "My Indians" before he was sent to Grotius by his brother (the letter's recipient) to help with writing it (perhaps Grotius is preparing a new edition and Graswinckel is supposed to help with scribal duties). But Grotius can tell by talking to him that he's had a head-start on the material. But I could be way off base.
  6. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    I don't know the context here, but Graswinkelii appears to be a proper name in the genitive and the meaning of the whole sentence could be either: "I have seen the thing/work/writing (again, I don't know the context) of Graswinkel's that you've sent [me], even though I have been busy with many things (literally "even though in many occupations") or: "As for the fact that you've sent Graswinkel's writing/work..., I have seen it..."

    In the first case, the object of vidi would be an implied id, antecedent of quod. (Id) quod = that which. It cannot mean "who", which would be masculine (or feminine if about a woman).

    In the second case, quod wouldn't be "(that) which" but rather "(as for the fact) that".

    I'm not entirely sure which is meant. If I'd seen this sentence alone, I might have taken it as the first option without much hesitation, but the fact that quod is used in the "as for the fact that" sense in the next sentence makes me doubt.

    There aren't really any punctuation rules proper to Latin. The Romans themselves hardly had any punctuation, and after that people have, overall, just applied the punctuation conventions of their own places and times to Latin.
    Indicas is a verb, meaning "you indicate/mention/say".

    Mea is what's called a substantivized adjective, in the neuter plural, meaning "my things (in this case words or writings)".

    Indicas and mea can't possibly be a noun-adjective unit. They wouldn't agree.

    Mea non legisse: a subject eum is implied. Do you know about indirect discourse in Latin and the accusative-and-infinitive construction?

    Te non monente: do you know about ablative absolutes?

    Here's a translation of the sentence:

    "As for your saying he hadn't read my work when he wrote, I would have realized it both from his words and from the facts even if you hadn't told me."
  7. Ignis Umbra Ignis Aeternus

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    After seeing Pacifica's very elegant translation of the second sentence (I really do like it!), I figured that, since there's a handful of concepts going on (some of which may not be the most intuitive immediately), I might color-code the individual pieces of the translation in order to get the ball rolling.

    Quod indicas mea, cum scriberet, non legisse, etiam te non monente cognovissem et ex verbis et ex rebus.

    "As for your saying he hadn't read my work when he wrote, I would have realized it both from his words and from the facts even if you hadn't told me."
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  8. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Good idea, IU.

    Also, JarMan, I've adapted the grammatical constructions somewhat to make the translation clearer and better-flowing in English, but if you feel you need a word-for-word translation of all or part of it to understand how one or the other construction works, don't hesitate to ask.
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  9. JarMan New Member

    You are right that Graswinckel is a person. I missed the fact that Graswinkelii is genitive here. So let me see if I understand what is going on with this sentence. Literally we have, "Graswinckel's [work] which you have sent [me], even though [I have been] in much work, I have seen [it]."?

    I should give you some more context regarding indicas mea. I became aware of this letter I am trying to translate when reading a scholarly paper that talks about some of Grotius' writings. The scholar talks about Grotius' "treatise on Indian affairs" referred to in Grotius' correspondences as either de rebus Indicis or indicis mea. At this point the writer provides a footnote that points out that indicis mea is grammatically incorrect and should really say indica mea or indicas meas [historias]. This is a crucial thing for me to get right in my research since there is some ambiguity as to which work Grotius is really referring to here in his letter. (With indica mea he is using a colloquial name and there are multiple works to which he may be referring.) Assuming this additional information is correct, what does that mean for the sentence? Perhaps: "As for My Indians [or the treatise on Indian affairs], he hadn't read it when he wrote, I would have realized it both from the words and from the facts even if you hadn't told me."?

    As for whether I know about some of these Latin constructions you bring up, I'll just say that I probably know far too little to be attempting translation at this point. I only know what I've seen with my research on the Internet (I haven't taken any classes or anything) so there are a lot of things I don't even know that I don't know. I will do some research to see if I can understand accusative-and-infinitive construction and ablative absolutes.
    Last edited by JarMan, Aug 12, 2019
  10. Quasus Civis Illustris

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    By Occam's standards, the Indian stuff looks like nonsense.

    Is the whole letter available online?
  11. Ignis Umbra Ignis Aeternus

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    It's linked in the OP.
    Perhaps not. A handful of material does come up when doing a Google search on "Grotius' treatise on Indian affairs" and variants of that phrase.
    That's correct.
    I've done a little digging and found the commentary and footnote*** you're referring to, but it looks like he's saying indicas mea is ungrammatical; there's no mention of indicis mea (but both are indeed ungrammatical):
    So maybe indica mea isn't entirely out of the question, if we're not necessarily looking at Grotius' original letters.
    From a translation standpoint, the only effect this would have on the translation would be that instead of " he hadn't read my work", it'd be "he hadn't read my treatise on the Indian affairs".

    I've found two more sources (here and here), which also have indicas mea. Maybe it actually is supposed to be indicas mea. The fact that indicas isn't capitalized in any of the sources makes me believe that Grotius may not be referring to this particular work on Indian affairs.

    But, as I'm writing this, I've found here three cases where it's used without any capitalization... So I'm not sure whether we have a case of a reproduced typo in this letter. :confused:

    I wouldn't take it so far as to say you're not ready for translation entirely. As I mentioned in my earlier post, there's quite a lot of grammatical concepts going on in this letter. I've gone ahead and read through the rest of the letter, and as this is your first translation (so the title of this thread says), I agree that this might be a huge burden for you. If you're considering learning Latin (which you should ;) ) It'd be better to start out translating simple passages first, then work your way towards more complex material.

    You're more than welcome to stick around on the forum. We've got plenty of incredible resources here to help you learn, and this might be one of the only places you find this many people interested in Latin nowadays. :p

    Regarding indirect discourse and the accusative-and-infinitive, this thread outlines the basics. We unfortunately don't yet have a thread on the ablative absolute. Perhaps I or another member will make one, since it is a common construction. In the meantime, this PDF is pretty succinct.

    ***For those wondering where I found the commentary and footnote, I've attached a PDF of it.

    Attached Files:

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  12. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    There is no way indicas mea can be taken as the title of a work, even misprinted. Indicas has to be a verb, otherwise it would leave the quod clause without any finite verb.

    The only way to make it work would be to assume two misprints, indicas for indica and legisse for legisset.

    Quod indica mea, cum scriberet, non legisset, etiam te non monente cognovissem et ex verbis et ex rebus would mean "That he had not read my treatise on Indian affairs when he wrote, I would have realized etc."

    I don't know how likely this is, though. The sentence with indicas and legisse makes perfect sense as it stands, with the meaning I gave in my translation of last night. My first instinct is to assume the person who wrote the note about indicas mea being ungrammatical just failed to understand the Latin.
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  13. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    The vocative would be Graswinkeli, with only one i at the end.
    If my first interpretation is right, yes.
  14. Ignis Umbra Ignis Aeternus

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    Couldn’t there be an ellipsis of “dicere”, though, if “indica mea” were intended?


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  15. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Unlikely.
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  16. Ignis Umbra Ignis Aeternus

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    Yeah I suspect you’re right. I think “indica” would have to be capitalized, in any case.


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  17. Quasus Civis Illustris

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    I fully support Pacifica's analysis. Moreover, in etiam te non monente cognovissem we see an unreal apodosis, i. e. actually the adressee did inform Grotius, which is perfectly conveyed by the verb indicas (which is a common verb, not being so bookish as English indicate). The letter makes perfect sense without India. On the contrary, attempts to discover India there are far-fetched as they assume a few stylistic and syntactic errors. One more stylistic error to be postulated: normally, res is not left out. In nom./acc. a neuter adjective can be used substantively; in the rest cases, the adjective accompanies an explicit res. BTW, the purpose of this usage is to avoid exactly the same kind of ambiguity a defender of India is trying to introduce. :)
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  18. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Well, Indica mea would be accusative. (Just saying; I'm not suddenly defending the Indica theory, which indeed seems far-fetched.)
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  19. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Note that mea (literally "my things/words") could also refer to a letter rather than a "work".
  20. JarMan New Member

    Wow, I'm really surprised by all the help and interest from people. What a neat little community I've stumbled upon.

    Regarding the indicas mea issue I should point out that the author of the article really seems to be a careful scholar. https://discovery.dundee.ac.uk/en/persons/martine-van-ittersum Her work with and access to a very important Grotius autograph indicates to me she is an accomplished Latinist. And Grotiana is a legit peer-reviewed journal so her paper would most likely have been reviewed by other Latinists. Also, she seems to be very familiar with the historical context of the letter. While I can't intelligently comment on the latin translation, it does seem reasonable to give her the benefit of the doubt as far as her interpretation is concerned.


    If mea is a substantivized adjective with an implied "things" couldn't mea be agreeing with another noun that is understood from the context? The author suggests indicas meas [historias] which is presumably known by the context. Also, since he may just be saying "my Indian history" it wouldn't seem to require capitalization since it is more of a description than a title (though I have no idea if "Indian" requires capitalization in early modern Latin or not).

    What really confuses me about this sentence are all of the verbs. We've got scriberet (imperfect subjunctive) and cognovissem (pluperfect subjunctive), which if I understand subjunctive correctly, it tells me when the action occurs relative to the main verb. I am expecting to find a past tense main verb that these two verbs relate to. But we have an infinitive with legisse and a participle with monente and none of the verbs in the translation suggested are in the forms I expect them to be in. How do I go about untangling all of this?

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