Sometimes I will run across sentences that have no verb, but there is an ablative and I am not sure about the right approach to assuming a verb. For example, in this 16th century sentence:

Erat inter eos & Reginaldinos vetus odium, saepe multis utriusque partis cladibus nobilitatum;

This sentence begins "There was among those and the Reginalds an old hatred, often the nobility of many parts of both ...". Then there is just the word cladibus "in/at the breaking" which I guess could be ablative or dative. Is the reader supposed to assume a missing erant. So, it would be "were at the breaking (point)" as though it said "in cladibus erant" or something like that? How do you handle sentences like this?

  • Take as one group saepe multis cladibus 'often with many injuries,'
    – Hugh
    Jun 30, 2019 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


Saepe multis utriusque partis cladibus nobilitatum can be interpreted as an Ablative Absolute construction whose predicate is the adjectival phrase saepe multis and its subject is the nominal phrase utriusque partis cladibus nobilitatum. The head of the former is multis, whereas the head of the latter is cladibus. Lit. 'with the injuries of both parts of their nobilities often being many'. I don't know about the context. So I hope you'll be able to provide a better translation. I agree with you that this construction can be given a sentential interpretation (in this reading, the Ablative Absolute construction is possible; no verb is needed) but, this said, notice that it can also be interpreted as merely involving a so-called Ablative of attendant circumstances (i.e., lit. 'often with many injuries of both parts of their nobilities'). In fact, this second interpretation seems quite natural here.

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    The “mere” ablative of circumstances feels right to this (inexpert) ear. Simpler too! Jun 30, 2019 at 13:28
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    Yes, I agree with you. Not only simpler but probably more appropriate too. Cf. also the typical example senatu frequente, where two readings are in principle possible: cf. the Ablative absolute, whereby frequente is predicative, and the Ablative of attendant circumstances, whereby this adjective is not predicative but attributive.
    – Mitomino
    Jun 30, 2019 at 14:06
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    It is worth pointing out that in this English edition of the text (philological.bham.ac.uk/scothist/15lat.html // 22. Erat inter eos et Reginaldinos vetus odium saepe multis utrisque partis cladibus nobilitatum <acceptis>) , a participle acceptis is added to highlight the propositional nature of the Ablative constituent. As noted above, this is not necessary provided that the adjective can acquire a predicative nature. Cf. also Frequenti senatu and Frequenti senatu coacto NB: only in the former example frequenti can have a predicative reading.
    – Mitomino
    Jun 30, 2019 at 17:59
  • I think the presence of saepe makes an ablative of circumstance seem odd—perhaps also because I wouldn't expect the latter inside an existential erat sentence. On the other hand, multis...cladibus makes for an odd ablative absolute, because I somehow don't like the feeling of praedicative multis as in "clashes were many". I think I would expect an adjective with a more 'propositional' meaning in an ablative absolute. So I'm inclined to say the sentence is odd either way. Should this be considered proper Latin? In classical Latin, I would perhaps expect a genitive.
    – Cerberus
    Jul 1, 2019 at 12:11
  • Precisely the combination of the meaning of saepe with multis made me think of the typical syntactically ambiguous example frequenti senatu/frequentissimo senatu. I agree with you that the semantics of multis is not enough to obtain a predicative status but perhaps combined with saepe in this non-Classical text such a reading is possible.
    – Mitomino
    Jul 2, 2019 at 18:12

The main clause, with a verb is

Erat vetus odium,

This ancient hatred is described by an adjective phrase, which tells you the participants,

inter eos & Reginaldinos

and another longer phrase explaining to some extent how (adverb) it was an ancient hatred; i.e. 'often with many clashes'

saepe multis cladibus

these 'clashes' (within the compound adverb phrase) more precisely described (with an adjective phrase) as being clashes 'of the nobility of each side.'

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