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

1. Sed iis, qui vi oppressos imperio coercent (II. 24)
Do the two ablatives “vi” and “imperio” mean “vi et imperio”?

2. quid Alexandrum Pheraeum quo animo vixisse arbitramur? (II. 25)
Why do we need two interrogative pronouns “quid” and “quo”?

3. conpunctum notis Thraeciis (II. 25)
What does “notis Thraeciis” mean?

4. Itaque vexatis ac perditis exteris nationibus ad exemplum amissi imperii portari in triumpho Massiliam vidimus et ex ea urbe triumphari (II. 28)
Could you give a literal translation?

Thank you,

Dear Robert,

1.In “Sed iis, qui vi oppressos imperio coercent….” (Cicero, De Officiis, II. 24) the two ablatives “vi” and “imperio” do not mean “vi et imperio”, because “vi” depends on “oppressos”, whereas  “imperio” depends on “coercent”, so that  “Sed iis, qui vi oppressos imperio coercent, sit sane adhibenda saevitia….” literally means:”But (sed) granted (sane, adverb as a restrictive, in concessions) that severity (saevitia, subject of the passive periphrastic) must be used(sit ….adhibenda) by those (iis, dative of the Agent  used with the Gerundive to denote the person on whom the necessity rests) who (qui) constrain (coercent) by [their]power (imperio, ablative of means) the oppressed (oppressos, part pl perf pass masc acc) by force (vi, ablative of means)…”, i.e. “Granted that those who control by their power those who are  oppressed by force must use severity ……” .

For Concessive Subjunctive see AG  440

2. In “Quid Alexandrum Pheraeum quo animo vixisse arbitramur?” (II. 25) Cicero uses the two interrogative pronouns “quid” and “quo” just to emphasize the question that follows the previous question “Quid … censemus superiorem ilium Dionysium…” meaning “What …shall we think of the elder Dionysius…?”.
So, “Quid Alexandrum Pheraeum quo animo vixisse arbitramur?” literally means:” And furthermore (quid, emphatically used)  in what (quo, interrogative pronoun introducing the main verb  “arbitramur” in the direct question clause) state of mind (animo)  do we suppose (arbitramur) that Alexander  (Alexandrum, subject of the object-clause) of Pherae (Pheraeum)  lived (vixisse, verb of the object-clause)?”.

3. In  “barbarum…..compunctum notis Thraeciis…” (II. 25) “notis Thraeciis”  literally means “punctured/tattoed (compunctum, agreeing with “barbarum”) by Thracian (Thraeciis, agreeing with “notis) marks/signs (notis, ablative of the agent,  plural of the noun “nota”)”, i.e. “tattooed like a Thracian” related to “a barbarian”.

4. Here’s the literal translation for ”Itaque vexatis ac perditis exteris nationibus ad exemplum amissi imperii portari in triumpho Massiliam vidimus et ex ea urbe triumphari…… “(II. 28): “And so (itaque), having been oppressed (vexatis, abl abs) and ruined (ac perditis, abl abs) foreign(exteris, abl abs) nations (nationibus, abl abs), we saw (vidimus) that  Marseilles (Massiliam, subject of the object-clause) has been carried (portari, passive infinitive present) in triumph (in triumpho) such as (ad) an image (exemplum) of the lost (amissi, past participle in the genitive agreed with imperii) supremacy/power(imperii), and [we saw that]a triumph has been celebrated ( triumphari, verb of the object-clause) over (ex)  that (ea) city (urbe)…”, i.e. “And so, when foreign nations had been oppressed and ruined, we saw a kind of image of Marseilles carried in a triumphal procession, such as a proof  of the lost supremacy …” . Note that there is here a  reference to the siege of Massilia (March-September 49 BC) that was an early victory for Caesar during the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey.

Best regards,



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I am an expert in Latin Language and Literature and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 All rights reserved.