I am translating a biography of Alessandro Farnese from French into English. The original source occasionally quotes a Latin phrase here and there. Most of them are known proverbs but this one comes from a letter written in the 16th century.

Tacita decisio controversiæ quam præcedendi desiderium pepererat in adventu.

The context is in regards to hierarchical protocol observed in the presence of Royalty at a dinner. Please met me know if more contextual information is needed or would be helpful.

Contributions will be noted in the acknowledgements of the completed book.


Without knowing the context, here's my best shot at a literal translation:

The unspoken resolution of a dispute which the desire to surpass had brought about at [their] arrival.

Some notes:

  • The whole phrase is just a noun that seems to be explaining what preceded it. The only verb is the relative clause. decisio controversiae occurs a few other times that I could find and seems to mean, "resolution of a dispute"
  • praecedendi (< praecedo) can mean either "go before" or "surpass/excel." Perhaps context will dictate which is more apropos.
  • pepererat (< pario) literally means "to bear [a child]," but in this context almost certainly has a less literal meaning: to "devise/invent"
  • I'm not quite sure what to do with in adventu: again, context would be important. I translated as "at [their] arrival"
  • If I remember correctly, in the original question there also was the information that each participant of the dinner tried to stand out in the discussion, which has unfortunately been removed though in the course of the edit. Dec 6 '19 at 17:41

The (yet) unexpressed decision

tacita decisio

of the discussion


aroused the desire

desiderium pepererat

to precede it

quam praecedendi

in being named.

in adventu
  • 1
    I believe desiderium is the subject of pepererat, and that the decision (via quam) is the object. I'm also not sure where you get "in naming it."
    – brianpck
    Dec 5 '19 at 2:46
  • I'm getting "in naming it" from "in adventu" and I translated it thus since the "arrival" of the expression of the thought is meant here to my mind. It does sound kind of nonsensical to say "... to precede the others at the arrival", so I translated it more freely. And what makes you believe "desiderium" is the subject? Did I miss something? Dec 6 '19 at 17:31
  • My reasoning is that quam (with antecedent decisio) can only be the accusative direct object, and it wouldn't make sense in this context to have two objects.
    – brianpck
    Dec 6 '19 at 18:41
  • Well, I reckon that "quam" is an accusative object of "praecedendi" and that - as you said - it refers to "decisio", because then it would mean that the people try to precede the decision which has not been expressed yet (desiderium quam praecedendi) by naming theirs earlier (in adventu). Dec 7 '19 at 12:45
  • In your translation, it looks like the object of "precede" is understood as "the others," rather than the decision itself. (In other words, there seems to be some disagreement between your answer and your explanation.) Either way, gerund + accusative is almost always replaced in Latin with a gerundive, e.g. cuius praecedendi.
    – brianpck
    Dec 7 '19 at 16:09

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