Aeneid XII 736 conscendebat equos

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
Fāma est praecipitem, cum prīma in proelia iūnctōs
cōnscendēbat equōs, patriō mucrōne relictō,
dum trepidat, ferrum aurīgae rapuisse Metiscī.

I am sure I am missing something obvious here, but why is conscendebat indicative? If it is a subclause in indirect speech shouldn't it be subjunctive?
 

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Civis Illustris
You're right. conscenderet would be what you'd expect (leaving the metre aside).

I don't know why he did that ... it looks like some kind of narrative technique to me.
 

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Civis Illustris
I know these kinds of explanations, I just don't find them fully satisfying in this particular case.
 

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Civis Illustris
Because it is not merely explaining something. The information in the subordinate clause is an important bit in grounding the time frame and the circumstances of the action that is described.
In other words, I could see a sentence like 'cum XY rex erat', which just provides some general reference point, as an independent subordinate clause, but I find it hard with this one ... contextually, because the action is too 'zoomed in', if that makes sense to you :p
 

AoM

nulli numeri
Tarrant just says, “the indic. marks a specific point in time.”
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
So should we take it as meaning that he is stressing the particular point in time when he was getting on the horse? I would have thought that conscenderet is also pretty specific.
 

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Civis Illustris
There is a similar passage (in terms of the use of tenses) in the Nisus & Euryalus story in book 9:

416-419
Diversi circumspiciunt. Hoc acrior idem
ecce aliud summa telum librabat ab aure.
Dum trepidant, iit hasta Tago per tempus utrumque
stridens traiectoque haesit tepefacta cerebro.

The imperfect describes the action that is going on in the background here while the perfect tense foregrounds the main action (and the present in 'dum trepida(n)t' seems to underline that even more).

I think he was trying to do the same thing in the passage you quoted and simply ignored the technicalities of reported speech. It wouldn't be the only time a Latin writer doesn't play by the rules of the grammar book ;) (I know that Ovid sometimes puts indirect questions in the indicative without any necessity)

If it had been me writing these lines, I would probably have started with the conscendebat equos part and then I would have gone on and tried to put the main clause in metres around it ... then I would have got annoyed because it doesn't fit as I need a short syllable at the end somewhere ... then I would have turned it into indirect speech to gain that short syllable from the infinitive (rapuisse), at which stage I would have forgotten that I would need to adjust the subordinate clause as well :p (and the adjustment wouldn't be super-easy as you can't just replace conscendebat with conscenderet) ... But I don't want to imply that Vergil necessarily worked that way :p

... Or maybe he thought, "Let's just leave it at that for now, I'll look over the whole thing when I'm back from Greece."
 
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