Chapter 67.3 - how to translate 'nisi'?

Phoebus Apollo

Civis Illustris
sed narra mihi, Gai, rogo, Fortunata quare non recumbit?' 'quomodo nosti' inquit 'illam' Trimalchio 'nisi argentum composuerit, nisi reliquias pueris diviserit, aquam in os suum non coniciet.''atqui' respondit Habinnas 'nisi illa discumbit, ego me apoculo' et coeperat surgere, nisi signo dato Fortunata quater amplius a tota familia esset vocata.

I'm not too sure how to translate the 'nisi' in bold? Would 'except' or 'only' work (this is a translation the L&S suggests, but it says after a negative or interrogative clause...)?
 

Dantius

Homo Sapiens
Staff member
coeperat surgere, nisi ... esset vocata is a past contrary to fact conditional. It occasionally happens that the apodosis of a contrary to fact conditional is in the indicative to indicate how something came close to happening or started to happen. This construction is discussed in more detail on this thread, with a very similar sentence in Tacitus.
 

Phoebus Apollo

Civis Illustris
coeperat surgere, nisi ... esset vocata is a past contrary to fact conditional. It occasionally happens that the apodosis of a contrary to fact conditional is in the indicative to indicate how something came close to happening or started to happen. This construction is discussed in more detail on this thread, with a very similar sentence in Tacitus.
Thanks Dantius! I see with the Tacitus example you translated it quite literally:
  1. in amplexūs fīliae ruēbat, nisi līctōrēs obstitissent(Tac. Ann. 16.32), he was about rushing into his daughter's arms, unless the lictors had opposed.
I just wondered - could you translate it as if it was subjunctive? So for my example it would be:
'and he would have begun to get up, if Fortunata had not been called...'
(rather than: 'and he had begun to get up, if Fortunata had not been called...')
 

Dantius

Homo Sapiens
Staff member
I suppose so, but the sense is that he actually did begin to get up, but never fully completed the getting-up.
 
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