Dear Maria,
Could you please help me with the following (all from de Senectute)

(1)“… quod si non posset, non posse interire; magnoque esse argumento homines scire pleraque ante quam nati sint, quod iam pueri, cum artis difficilis discant,” (78)
Could you give a literal translation of this sentence? There are two things about this sentence that I don’t understand: the clause “magnoque esse argumento homines scire pleraque” and the cum clause (why abl artis?).

(2)“Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit animos, …” (80)
After “potuit” is an acc+infinitive clause, which I understand. My problem with this sentence is
“Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit”. I don’t know what the subj. is in this main clause.

(3)“Sed nescio quo modo animus erigens se posteritatem ita semper prospiciebat” (82)
Is “se” the object of “erigens”, meaning “raising itself”?
(4) “Quod quidem ni ita se haberet, ut animi inmortales essent, …” (82)
Could you please give a literal translation of the above clause? I am not clear about the meanings of the words “quod”, “ita se haberet” and “ut”. Also, what is the subject in the “quod” clause?
Thank you.

Dear Robert,

1)Here’s the literal translation of “… quod si non posset, non posse interire; magnoque esse argumento homines scire pleraque ante quam nati sint, quod iam pueri, cum artis difficilis discant,...” (Cicero, De Senectute, 78):
“....since (QUOD. Causal conjunction) if (SI) it (i.e. "the soul" which appears in the previous sentence)cannot(NON POSSET) [be divided” which is implied as it refers to the previous passage”non posse dividi”] , it(i.e. the soul) cannot (NON POSSE) perish (INTERIRE); and (-QUE) it is (ESSE) as as a/of a great (MAGNO-) proof (ARGUMENTO.Dative of Service) the fact that men (HOMINES) know(SCIRE) many things (PLERAQUE. Neuter plural of PLERIQUE) before (ANTE QUAM) they are born (NATI SINT), since (QUOD.Causal) still (IAM) children(PUERI), when (CUM) they learn(DISCANT) difficult (DIFFICILIS which stands for DIFFICILES, accusative plural agreed with ARTIS that stands for ARTES, accusative plural of ARS) subjects (ARTIS/ARTES)....”i.e.:
“since if  the soul cannot  be divided, it cannot perish ; and it is  as a great proof  the fact that men know many things  before they are born , since when they, mere children , learn  difficult  subjects ....”.

Please note that the above mentioned passage depends on the main clause “Sic mihi persuasi, sic sentio...”( literally, “So I have persuaded myself, I feel that...”, i.e. “That is my conviction,that is what I believe...that...) followed by some infinitive clauses such as “non posse eam naturam..esse mortalem”, “ne finem  quidem habiturum esse motus..”, “non posse eum dividi”, “non posse interire”, “magnoque esse argumento homines scire pleraque ....”, as well as some subordinate clauses in the subjunctive of the “oratio obliqua” (indirect discourse).

As for the two things  that  you do not  understand, please note that:

-the clause “magnoque esse argumento” is the infinitive clause depending on “Sic mihi persuasi, sic sentio”, while “ homines scire pleraque”  is  another infinitive clause depending on “magnoque esse argumento“ meaning “it is as/of  a great proof the fact that” where “magno ..argumento” is a Dative of Service (See AG 382)

-in  the cum clause  “ cum artis difficilis discant “ ARTIS DIFFICILIS, with archaic endings –IS instead of –ES,  stands for ARTES DIFFICILES  in the accusative plural depending on “discant”.
Anyway the ablative of ARS would be ARTE in the singular and ARTIBUS in the plural, not “artis”, as you say.

(2)“Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit animos dum in corporibus essent mortalibus vivere, …” (80), literally meaning “In fact (QUIDEM) to me (MIHI) never (NUMQUAM) it could (POTUIT) be persuaded (PERSUADERI) that souls (ANIMOS as subject of the infinitive clause “vivere”) , while (DUM) they were(ESSENT) in  mortal  (MORTALIBUS) bodies (CORPORIBUS) , i.e. “In fact I could never be persuaded that souls live,while they were in human bodies..”.

As you can see, the perfect indicative POTUIT (it could)  governs the passive infinitive PERSUADERI (to be persuaded) which in turn governs the  acc+infinitive clause, while there is no  subject of the main clause “Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit” simply because POTUIT PERSUADERI is an impersonal construction related to the particular construction of the verb PERSUADEO which takes the Dative of the person that is persuaded.

In fact, in  this  verb the Latin retains an original meaning, since PERSUADEO  MIHI  originally meant “I bring persuasion to me” where PERSUADEO is “I bring persuasion” and MIHI means “to me”, i.e.  “I persuade myself”.

Therefore “Mihi ... persuaderi potuit”  would have corresponded to “persuasion  could be brought to me” and then “I could be persuaded “ (See AG 367).

(3)In “Sed nescio quo modo animus erigens se posteritatem ita semper prospiciebat” (82) the reflexive pronoun “se” is just the object of  the present participle “erigens”, meaning “raising itself”.

Here’s the literal translation:”But (SED) I do not know (NESCIO) how (QUO MODO) the soul (ANIMUS) raising itself (ERIGENS SE) always (SEMPER) looked forward  (PROSPICIEBAT) to posterity (POSTERITATEM)....”

(4) “Quod quidem ni ita se haberet, ut animi immortales essent, …” (82) literally means :”If  (NI which stands for NISI = if ...not ) this thing (QUOD.Latin often uses the relative pronoun instead of the demonstrative, as you know ) were  (SE HABERET) not  so (ITA),  that (UT) souls (ANIMI) are (ESSENT) immortal (IMMORTALES) ...”, i.e. “And, indeed, were it not true that the souls are  immortal...”.

In short, I have to point out that:

-the subject in the “quod” clause is just the relative pronoun QUOD;

-“ita se habere”  is an idiomatic expression meaning ” to be so” as in e.g. “such/this being the case”

-UT depending on “se habere” means “that” /”so that” conceived as the result of its antecedent, expressed or implied.

Hope this is clear enough.

Kind regards,
If you don’t mind, could you tell me the reason why you are asking me so many questions about grammar and syntax of  "De Senectute" ?
Is it for improving your Latin that you are studying or have you  a personal interest in Latin?


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