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Lines 617–623 of De Rerum Natura, book VI:

Praeterea, magnam sol partem detrahit æstu.
Quippe videmus enim vestes humore madentes
Exsiccare suis radiis ardentibu’ solem.
At pelage multa et late substrata videmus.
Proinde, licet quamvis ex unoquoque loco sol
Humoris parvam delibet ab æquore partem;
Largiter in tanto spatio tamen auferet undis.

Here's my attempt at a translation:

Furthermore, the Sun draws off a large part of [the oceans' water] with its heat.
For certainly we see that clothes dripping with moisture
are dried out by the Sun's fiery rays.
And we see the many seas stretched out below [the Sun].
So, it can be seen that out of any one spot,
however small a part of the moisture the Sun takes away,
it still takes abundantly in such a space from the waves.

I'm wondering if I've got in tanto spatio wrong, maybe influenced too much by the English word "space". Does Lucretius mean something more like "to that extent"? Or might he even mean something like "However little water the Sun takes from that spot, it becomes a great amount because of the waves that pass through it"? Or simply, "The ocean is very big (such a space!), so even if only a little water is lost in any one spot, a vast amount is lost over the ocean as a whole'?

  • 2
    I think your third interpretation is correct. – TKR Jul 8 '16 at 17:15
  • I think you have it, but what about 'over so great an expanse, it still takes...' – jon Jul 11 '16 at 2:25
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I think your last suggestion is correct: "The ocean is very big (such a space!), so even if only a little water is lost in any one spot, a vast amount is lost over the ocean as a whole". The other options do not make nearly as much sense to me.

Notice also that proinde ("therefore, so") refers to a preceding statement, here the previous line. You could translate proinde as "because the sea is so vast".

Let me offer my own translation of the three lines:

Thus, however small fraction of water the sun takes away from the sea in each place, it removes a lot of water over such a big area.

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