Dear Maria,
Could you help me with the following? They are all from Seneca’s Epistles.

1. Quid enim quis discere, quid imitari velit? (XL.6)
Does “quis” mean “aliquis” here?

2. Quemadmodum per proclive currentium non ubi visum est, gradus sistitur, sed incitato corporis ponderi se rapit …” (XL. 7)
Could you give a literal translation?

3. Tum quoque, … tantum …(XL.8)
What is the literal meaning of these three words?

4. ut paria pessimis audeat, … da posse, quantum volunt. (XLII.4)
Could you explain the case of “paria pessimis”? Is “tantum” understood before “posse”, which goes with “quantum”?

Thank you.

Dear Robert,

1.In “Quid enim quis discere, quid imitari velit? “(Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, XL.6) the pronoun “quis” means “aliquis”, so that the sentence means :”What (quid) in fact (enim) could somebody want (quis....velit, Potential Subjunctive ) to learn (discere), what (quid)  [could want (velit)] to imitate (imitari)?”, with reference to some  worthless orators who exercise themselves only in using words (qui verba exercuerunt) so that nobody can learn anything from them.

2.“Quemadmodum per proclive currentium non ubi visum est, gradus sistitur, sed incitato corporis ponderi se rapit ac longius quam voluit effertur..” (XL. 7) literally means:
”As (quemadmodum) the pace/walk (gradus) of those who run ( currentium) downhill a mountain slope (per proclive, neuter of “proclivis”) stops (sistitur) not (non) where (ubi) it seems good to them [to stop], but it [i.e. the pace] drags (rapit) itself (se) because of the excited (inritato) weight ( pondere) of body (corporis) and is transported (effertur) farther than (longius quam) he wanted (voluit)....”, with reference to the fact that the one who runs downhill cannot stop where he had decided to stop, but is carried along by the  momentum of his body and is transported  beyond the place where he wished to halt.

3. In “Tum quoque, cum … tantum … quantum…..” (XL.8) “Tum quoque cum “ means “Even (quoque) at that time (tum) when (cum)…”, while “tantum” means “as” followed by its  correlative  “quantum”  also meaning  “ as” .

In short, “Tum quoque, cum illum aut ostentatio abstulerit aut affectus inpotens sui,tantum festinet atque ingerat, quantum aures pati possunt” means:
”Even when (tum quoque cum) ostentation ( ostentatio) or (aut) uncontrollable (impotens sui = not master of itself) passion (affectus) carry him away (illum…..abstulerit), [even then] as  (tantum) let he (i.e. the orator)  be quick (festinet, hortatory subjunctive) and keep saying (ingerat, hortatory subjunctive) as  (quantum) the ears (aures) [of the listeners] can (possunt) endure (pati)”, i.e. :“Even when the orator is carried away by his desire to show his cleverness, or by uncontrollable passion, even then he should speak as  quickly  as their listeners  can endure”.

4. In “….ut paria pessimis audeat, … da posse, quantum volunt”  (XLII.4) “paria” (literally “equal /same things”) is an accusative neuter plural of the adjective “par” meaning “equal”; “pessimis” ( literally, “to the worst ”) is the dative plural of the superlative “pessimus” (worst). As for “da posse, quantum volunt”  the adverb  “tantum”  is understood before  the infinitive “posse”, which goes with its correlative “quantum”.

So, “Multorum crudelitas et ambitio et luxuria, ut paria pessimis audeat, fortunae favore deficitur……. da posse, quantum volunt “ literally means:
”Cruelty, ambition, and excesses (crudelitas et ambitio et luxuria) of many persons (multorum) are lacking (deficitur, present indicative passive of “deficio”,  3rd person singular agreeing with only one subject.Constructio ad sensum, according to sense) in the favour (favore) of fortune (fortunae) in order to dare (ut, introducing final clause with the subjunctive “audeat”.Constructio ad sensum) things similar (paria) to those that the worst men (pessimis) [dare to do]…..;... allow [ them ](da, Imperative of  the verb “do”,  2nd person singular) to be able  (posse)  [as to do] as they want (quantum volunt)”.

In short, Seneca says that often cruelty, ambition, and excesses of many people  lack the favour of fortune to dare to behave like the worst men, but, if you gave them the power equal to the power of the worst men, they would behave just like them.

Best regards,


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