I have recently heard somebody (quoting Virgil) saying "Timèo Danaos...". This sounds awkward to me, but I confess I have not studied Latin for ages.

I remember that timeo is a verb like moneo, II conjugation, the infinitive is timère (the e is long). I remember also that the accent is mòneo and not monèo. Thus I would say tìmeo and not timèo.

Am I right? Is it true that the stressed syllable the "ti-"? Thanks in advance.


2 Answers 2


The word is tĭmĕō, so the vowels are short, short, and long. The stress is indeed on the first syllable according to the standard stress rules in Latin. Thus the e is neither long nor stressed, so I agree that any kind of emphasis on it would be awkward.

The stress on the first syllable is the standard stress in prose, but in metric poetry the stress (or rather ictus) depends on the whole verse. Vergilius wrote this line in dactylic hexameter, and in that context the ictus would fall on the last syllable of timeo.

Whether you want to follow prose stress or scan the verse with the metric structure is a matter of taste. But either way, you would never stress the middle syllable.

  • Thank you for such a complete and comprehensive answer, I love it! Just one curiosity: how do we know that the word is tĭmĕō? I mean, is it a general rule that the ending of the present indicative II conj. is -ĕō (e short, o long)? I have tried to find it in books but I failed. Thanks again!
    – Romeo
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 23:37
  • 1
    vocalis ante vocalem brevis est Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 1:44
  • @PietroMajer Now it makes perfectly sense. I thank you for your comment and for your interesting answer as well.
    – Romeo
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 9:07
  • @Romeo "How do we know all the vowel lengths in Latin?" is a great question. I thought we had one already, but I couldn't find it, so it would make sense to ask it. Books rarely explain how we know things, they just give the things as facts. It's too much of a digression to discuss in this question. (There are rare cases of long vowels before vowels, like fio, but as a general rule indeed vowels before vowels are short.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 10:49
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Good idea, I will ask it as a separate question, thanks a lot for your suggestion!
    – Romeo
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 8:25

The complete answer has already be given by Joonas Ilmavirta; here are a few words on the prosody, which however only makes sense if you say the complete verse. As we know, these are the last words of Laocoön's speech (and, sadly, of his whole life), trying to persuade his fellows Trojans to not receive the horse from the Greeks. The whole verse (Æneid, II, 49)

Quicquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis

is a dactylic hexameter with a spondee at the fourth foot:

–⏑⏑ | –⏑⏑ | –⏑⏑ | – – | –⏑⏑ | – –

to be read with a trithemimeral (aka "masculine") and an hephthemimeral cæsura:

Quìcquid id èst || timeò Danaòs || et dòna ferèntis

Thus this hexameter is exactly like this other one, about another old priest in the same war (Iliad, I, 35)

πολλὰ δ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽ ἀπάνευθε κιὼν ἠρᾶθ᾽ ὃ γεραιὸς

same feet, same cæesuræ.

  • 1
    Intesi! Mille grazie.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 17:13

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